Neil Flewelling cornet, Steve Straus clarinet, Frank Batchelor trombone, Phil Hower keyboard, Eric Baldwin banjo/guitar, Pierre Lemieux tuba, Rich Malcolm drums
Steve Straus leads this rambunctious band on clarinet and soprano sax with amiable, good natured humor.
Members of this band come from towns all over Eastern New England. They mix old New Orleans music from the 20’s with tunes from the ‘recent’ 60’s. They obviously love this music – they’ve dedicated their lives to it.
Steve asked the band to sound like a Basie Band, then they played Irving Berlin’s 1911 Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Steve giving it a surprise ending with a soprano sax coda. His sax is sweet on Paper Moon, but dynamic on Floating Down To Cotton Town. He moved to clarinet with a vocal on a tune we’ve never heard before, You Meet The Nicest People In Your Dreams.
Valentine’s Day was approaching – the evening was interspersed with love songs. But Valentine’s Day isn’t always about loving relationships, as portrayed in his vocal, Floating Down That Old Great River. This comic song was recorded in 1915, and is typical of the kind of entertainment popular during Vaudeville.
At the start of Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, we realized Eric Baldwin was playing rhythm banjo, adding strength to the middle of the rhythm section.
He’s been featured on guitar for years with some of his own bands. He moved to guitar for Hoagie Carmichael’s Nearness of You, nice dance tune. He is currently teaching at Indian Hill Music Community in Littleton, MA and works as a sideman in many local bands.
Pierre LeMieux’s plays bass lines on tuba and extends that by turning the monstrous horn into a viable solo instrument.
Pierre leads the Mill City Jazz Band that plays in the Merrimack Valley in Memorial Concerts-in-the-Park, Strolling sidewalk music during town activities, Feaster-Five activities, Fund raisers, Senior Centers, and private parties.
He plays in parades with the Jambalaya Jazz Band, in the Shriners Swing Band, Mario Carrabba’s Big Band, and some Octoberfest German bands.
They played two early popular tunes, It’s a Sin To Tell a Lie, a 1936 song by Billy Mayhew and Write Myself a Letter, a 1935 tune by Fred E. Ahlert. Pierre gave it a nice tuba solo. He was trading 4’s with Frank’s trombone on Making Whoopee.
Frank’s trombone sound is deep and lush, and melodic and mellow when using several mutes. He adds stimulating accompaniment to the front line.
Frank manages the band and its website – no easy task!
You feel the rhythm rather than hear the drum beats by Rich Malcom. He plays in good taste. His unique moves highlight the structure of the music by changing color, density, and dynamics.
On the snare drum, he softens reverberation by holding one stick to the drum and tapping with the other, or else tapping sticks together; or he plays softly with his fingers. Even his solo was reserved on It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.
Phil Hower introduced Irving Berlin’s Putting On The Ritz with a piano vamp. He was featured on a warm My Funny Valentine, with guitar backup, Steve playing low register clarinet solo, Frank muted trombone, and Neil’s bold cornet.
Phil’s playing offers just the right chords behind all the soloists. . Phil Hower’s heroes are the great stride pianists of the 1920’s and ’30’s, and he does his utmost to emulate their technique and style, like Jelly Roll Morton’s Why.
Once in a While was a barn burner, with Steve leading the band. Tommy Dorsey’s version was #1 in 1937.
Neil Lewelling was featured on Sleeping Time Down South. He plays a 60’s Getsen cornet, beautiful rich tone, playing spontaneous improvisations. He’s played trumpet for 50 years, until he recently discovered this cornet, handed down from a couple of friends. He plans on playing cornet for the next 50 years!
The final tune came as a surprise, we didn’t realize time had run out. They sent us home with sweet New Orleans Traditional Jazz: Up a Lazy River.
They are wonderful and dynamic musicians, fun to watch and great to listen to. You can hear them March 6th at Ken’s Steak House and March 24th back at Primavera Ristorante. Hope to see you there!